At Last, America Sends Astronauts Back Into Space

  • If all goes according to plan, NASA and SpaceX will launch astronauts in a U.S.-built spacecraft from American soil for the first time in 9 years.
  • Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will pilot SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Capsule and Falcon 9 rocket—a first for the company, which has only sent cargo to the International Space Station.
  • Watch NASA’s live stream of the launch preparation below.

Update: Blast off! At 3:22 p.m. EDT, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley lifted off from launchpad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Just minutes after launch, the Falcon 9 rocket released Crew Dragon and returned to Earth, where it landed, intact, aboard SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic. The spacecraft’s second stage successfully released just minutes after that. It will take the astronauts 19 hours to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS). Throughout their journey, Behnken and Hurley will orbit Earth, periodically conducting engine burns in order to catch up with the ISS.

The capsule is designed to operate autonomously, but during this test flight, Hurley will take the reins and manually operate the vehicle while in orbit and upon its approach to the space station. The astronauts will eat and sleep aboard the vehicle, use the bathroom (maybe?), and test a number of features before docking with the space station Sunday afternoon.

The Crew Dragon capsule will spend up to 120 days attached to the ISS. At this time, no specific return dates have been announced. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, who launched for the ISS amid the coronavirus pandemic in April, as well as Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, will be waiting for Hurley and Behnken.